How to work with your mentor or coach

Working with a mentor or coach can give you great benefits in terms of your career, business or personal life. It’s great to have a mentor who gives you advice and guides you through difficult times. It is important to keep in mind that mentoring is a two way relationship and if you are being coached or mentored you can gain more from the relationship by following some simple but effective guidelines for working with your mentor or coach. Here are some of the most useful approaches that we have observed at the Mentoring and Coaching Centre at the Frontline Management Institute.

How to work with your mentor or coach

HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR MENTOR OR COACH

1. Begin the mentoring relationship by clarifying the goals you want to achieve

It is a good starting point to think through the goals you want to achieve before your first meeting or phone session with your mentor or coach. The clearer you are about what you want the more your mentor or coach can help you. Think these things through before the mentoring session so that you don’t waste time having to develop ideas for goals during the session. Of course you will want to clarify the goals and maybe amend them with the mentor or coach but at least have a draft list to start from.

Make sure the goals include some long term focus as well as short term items. Keep your eye on the way you want to develop over the long term as well as sorting out some shorter term immediate priorities. Just focusing on the short term can keep you busy but you may not actually develop more important longer term capabilities that will enable you to do things better in the future.

2. Prepare yourself before the mentoring or coaching session

Take time out to prepare yourself before each session. Review what you have done since the last session. What have you achieved? What have you failed to achieve and why? Prepare any reports or figures you want to discuss in the meeting so you have these to hand.

3. Be open to listen to new ideas and new ways of looking at things

One of the great things a mentor or coach can do is give you a fresh perspective on things. This is often referred to as “reframing” where you look at the same situation but from a different perspective. The glass half empty or the glass half full is a simple example of how reframing helps us see something differently. Often a mentor can help us reframe an issue or problem so that it becomes much more manageable.

We do sometimes have resistance to seeing things from a new perspective so it is important to remain open to new ideas and advice even if at first we don’t agree with them. Ask questions to help you fully understand the new ideas and explore how you might apply them in practice.

4. Focus on actions to be taken – and diarise

Mentoring or coaching is about the way we take action so focus on what action you should take and when and how to take it. Moving from a theoretical understanding to a practical execution of an idea is an important way to embed new behaviours which will eventually form new habits. Keep a diary or electronic calendar with you during coaching and record what you will do and when you will do it.

5. Apply what you have learned and decided to do

Immediately after the coaching or mentoring begin to apply the new ideas and patterns of behaviour you have discussed. If the coaching is around people management or interpersonal relationships begin to apply the new approaches and skills you have been advised about. If the coaching is about a technical aspect of work such as setting up a website or keeping financial records, apply the new approaches discussed. Of course in some cases you will need to learn more details and research how to do things. It is important to move into the action phase even if for only a draft or pilot stage.

 

Using these five strategies discussed will help you get more value from the coaching or mentoring relationship. Remember the more you invest in time and energy into the mentoring or coaching relationship the greater the returns you will receive.

“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.”

Diana Ross, Singer and Actress

If you would like further details of coaching or mentoring services please contact the Mentoring and Coaching Centre at the Frontline Management Institute at fmi@fmi-au.com or phone +61 2 9660 0199. We can help you analyse development needs in your organisation, contact us for a free initial consultation.

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